Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Τρίτη, 9 Οκτωβρίου 2018

Greece before the Greek Revolution for Independence : The horrible national situation under the tyrranic rule of Ottoman Empire

After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, the Despotate of the Morea was the last remnant of the Byzantine Empire to hold out against the Ottomans. However, it fell to the Ottomans in 1460, completing the conquest of mainland Greece. While most of mainland Greece and the Aegean islands was under Ottoman control by the end of the 15th century, Cyprus and Crete remained Venetian territory and did not fall to the Ottomans until 1571 and 1670 respectively. The only part of the Greek-speaking world that escaped Ottoman rule was the Ionian Islands, which remained Venetian until 1797. Corfu withstood three major sieges in 1537, 1571 and 1716 all of which resulted in the repulsion of the Ottomans. Other areas that remained part of the Venetian Stato da Màr include Nafplio and Monemvasia until 1540, the Duchy of the Archipelago, centered on the islands of Naxos and Paros until 1579, Sifnos until 1617 and Tinos until 1715.
The consolidation of Ottoman rule was followed by two distinct trends of Greek migration. The first entailed Greek intellectuals, such as Basilios Bessarion, Georgius Plethon Gemistos and Marcos Mousouros, migrating to other parts of Western Europe and influencing the advent of the Renaissance. This trend had also effect on the creation of the modern Greek diaspora. The second entailed Greeks leaving the plains of the Greek peninsula and resettling in the mountains, where the rugged landscape made it hard for the Ottomans to establish either military or administrative presence.
The Sultan sat at the apex of the government of the Ottoman Empire. Although he had the trappings of an absolute ruler, he was actually bound by tradition and convention. These restrictions imposed by tradition were mainly of a religious nature. Indeed, the Qur'an was the main restriction on absolute rule by the sultan and in this way, the Qur'an served as a "constitution." All non-Muslims were in theory forbidden from carrying arms, but this was ignored. Indeed, in regions such as Crete, almost every man carried arms. Greek Christian families were, however, subject to a system of brutal forced conscription known as the devshirme. The Ottomans required that male children from Christian peasant villages be conscripted and enrolled in the corps of Janissaries for military training in the Sultan's army. Such recruitment was sporadic, and the proportion of children conscripted varied from region to region. The practice largely came to an end by the middle of the seventeenth century. Under the Ottoman system of government, Greek society was at the same time fostered and restricted. With one hand the Turkish regime gave privileges and freedom to its subject people; with the other it imposed a tyranny deriving from the malpractices of its administrative personnel over which it exercised only remote and incomplete control. In fact the “rayahs” were downtrodden and exposed to the vagaries of Turkish administration and sometimes to the Greek landlords. The term rayah came to denote an underprivileged, tax-ridden and socially inferior population.
The economic situation of the majority of Greece deteriorated heavily during the Ottoman era of the country. Life became ruralized and militarized. Heavy burdens of taxation were placed on the Christian population, and many Greeks were reduced to subsistence farming whereas during prior eras the region had been heavily developed and urbanized. The Sultan regarded the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church as the leader of all Orthodox, Greeks or not, within the empire. The Patriarch was accountable to the Sultan for the good behavior of the Orthodox population, and in exchange he was given wide powers over the Orthodox communities, including the non-Greek Slavic peoples. The Patriarch controlled the courts and the schools, as well as the Church, throughout the Greek communities of the empire. This made Orthodox priests, together with the local magnates, called Prokritoi or Dimogerontes, the effective rulers of Greek towns and cities.
As a rule, the Ottomans did not require the Greeks to become Muslims, although many did so on a superficial level in order to avert the socioeconomic hardships of Ottoman rule. The regions of Greece which had the largest concentrations of Ottoman Greek Muslims were Macedonia, notably the Vallaades, neighboring Epirus, and Crete. Under the millet logic, Greek Muslims, despite often retaining elements of their Greek culture and language, were classified simply as "Muslim", although most Greek Orthodox Christians deemed them to have "turned-Turk" and therefore saw them as traitors to their original ethno-religious communities. Some Greeks either became New Martyrs, such as Saint Efraim the Neo-Martyr or Saint Demetrios the Neo-martyr while others became Crypto-Christians (Greek Muslims who were secret practitioners of the Greek Orthodox faith) in order to avoid heavy taxes and at the same time express their identity by maintaining their secret ties to the Greek Orthodox Church. Crypto-Christians officially ran the risk of being killed if they were caught practicing a non-Muslim religion once they converted to Islam.
Slavery in the Ottoman Empire was a legal and significant part of the Ottoman Empire's economy and society. The main sources of slaves were Christians war captives and organized enslavement expeditions in North and East Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Greece and the Caucasus. It has been reported that the selling price of slaves fell after large military operations. In Constantinople, the administrative and political center of the Empire, about a fifth of the population consisted of slaves in 1609. Sixteenth- and 17th-century customs statistics suggest that Istanbul's additional slave import from the Black Sea may have totaled around 2.5 million from 1450 to 1700.
A member of the Ottoman slave class, called a kul in Turkish, could achieve high status. Castrated harem guards and janissaries are some of the better known positions a slave could hold, but slaves were actually often at the forefront of Ottoman politics. A large percentage of officials in the Ottoman government were bought slaves raised free, and integral to the success of the Ottoman Empire from the 14th century into the 19th. Many officials themselves owned a large number of slaves, although the Sultan himself owned by far the most. By raising and specially training slaves as officials in palace schools such as Enderun, the Ottomans created administrators with intricate knowledge of government and fanatic loyalty. Slaves were traded in special marketplaces called "Esir" or "Yesir" that were located in most towns and cities. It is said that Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" established the first Ottoman slave market in Constantinople in the 1460s. According to Nicolas de Nicolay, there were slaves of all ages and both sexes, they were displayed naked to be thoroughly checked especially children and young women by possible buyers.
The Crimean Khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East until the early eighteenth century. In a series of slave raids known as the "harvesting of the steppe", Crimean Tatars enslaved East Slavic peasants. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Russia suffered a series of Tatar invasions, the goal of which was to loot, pillage, and capture slaves into "jasyr". The borderland area to the south-east was in a state of semi-permanent warfare until the 18th century. It is estimated that up to 75% of the Crimean population consisted of slaves or freed slaves. For centuries, large vessels on the Mediterranean relied on European galley slaves supplied by Ottoman and Barbary slave traders. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. These slave raids were conducted largely by Arabs and Berbers rather than Ottoman Turks. However, during the height of the Barbary slave trade in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Barbary states were subject to Ottoman jurisdiction and were ruled by Ottoman pashas. Furthermore, many slaves captured by the Barbary corsairs were sold eastward into Ottoman territories before, during, and after Barbary's period of Ottoman rule.
The concubines of the Ottoman Sultan consisted chiefly of purchased slaves. The Sultan's concubines were generally of Christian origin. The mother of a Sultan, though technically a slave, received the extremely powerful title of Valide Sultan which raised her to the status of a ruler of the Empire. One notable example was Kösem Sultan, daughter of a Greek Christian priest, who dominated the Ottoman Empire during the early decades of the 17th century. Circassians, Syrians, and Nubians were the three primary races of females who were sold as sex slaves in the Ottoman Empire. Circassian girls were described as fair and light-skinned and were frequently enslaved by Crimean Tatars then sold to Ottomans. They were the most expensive, reaching up to 500 pounds sterling and the most popular with the Turks. Second in popularity were Mediterranean girls, with their dark eyes, dark hair, and light brown skin, and came largely from coastal regions in Anatolia. Their price could reach up to 30 pounds sterling. They were described as having "good figures when young". Nubian girls were the cheapest and least popular, fetching up to 20 pounds sterling.Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, sexual slavery was not only central to Ottoman practice but a critical component of imperial governance and elite social reproduction. Dhimmi boys taken in the devşirme could also become sexual slaves, though usually they worked in places like bathhouses (hammam) and coffeehouses. They became tellaks (masseurs), köçeks (cross-dressing dancers) or sāqīs (wine pourers) for as long as they were young and beardless.
Greeks, like other Christians, were also made to pay the jizya, or Islamic poll-tax which all non-Muslims in the empire were forced to pay instead of the Zakat that Muslims must pay as part of the 5 pillars of Islam. Failure to pay the jizya could result in the pledge of protection of the Christian's life and property becoming void, facing the alternatives of conversion; enslavement or death. After the 16th century, many Greek folk songs (dimotika) were produced and inspired from the way of life of the Greek people, brigands and the armed conflicts during the centuries of Ottoman rule. Klephtic songs, or ballads, are a subgenre of the Greek folk music genre and are thematically oriented on the life of the klephts.
The Greek Revolution of 1821 was not an isolated event; numerous failed attempts at regaining independence took place throughout the history of the Ottoman era. The Greek Orthodox Church played a pivotal role in the preservation of national identity and the development of Greek society. By the time of the War of Independence powerful armatoloi could be traced in Rumeli, Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia. To the revolutionary leader and writer Yannis Makriyannis, klephts and armatoloi being the only available major military force on the side of the Greeks played such a crucial role in the Greek revolution that he referred to them as the "yeast of liberty".
From the early stages of the Greek revolution, success at sea was vital for the Greeks. The Greek fleet was primarily outfitted by prosperous Aegean islanders, principally from three islands: Hydra, Spetses and Psara. Each island equipped, manned and maintained its own squadron, under its own admiral. Although they were manned by experienced crews, the Greek ships were not designed for warfare, equipped with only light guns and staffed by armed merchantmen. In the face of this situation, the Greeks decided to use fire ships, which had proven themselves effective for the Psarians during the Orlov Revolt in 1770. The first test was made at Eresos on 27 May 1821, when an Ottoman frigate was successfully destroyed by a fire ship under Dimitrios Papanikolis. In the fire ships, the Greeks found an effective weapon against the Ottoman vessels. In subsequent years, the successes of the Greek fire ships would increase their reputation, with acts such as the destruction of the Ottoman flagship by Constantine Kanaris at Chios, after the massacre of the island's population in June 1822, acquiring international fame. At the same time, conventional naval actions were also fought, at which naval commanders like Andreas Miaoulis distinguished themselves. The early successes of the Greek fleet in direct confrontations with the Ottomans at Patras and Spetses gave the crews confidence and contributed greatly to the survival and success of the uprising in the Peloponnese.
The position of educated and privileged Greeks within the Ottoman Empire improved greatly in the 17th and 18th centuries. From the late 1600s Greeks began to fill some of the highest and most important offices of the Ottoman state. The Phanariotes, a class of wealthy Greeks who lived in the Phanar district of Constantinople, became increasingly powerful. Their travels to Western Europe as merchants or diplomats brought them into contact with advanced ideas of liberalism and nationalism, and it was among the Phanariotes that the modern Greek nationalist movement was born. Many Greek merchants and travelers were influenced by the ideas of the French revolution and a new Age of Greek Enlightenment was initiated at the beginning of the 19th century in many Ottoman-ruled Greek cities and towns. Greek nationalism was also stimulated by agents of Catherine the Great, the Orthodox ruler of the Russian Empire, who hoped to acquire Ottoman territory, including Constantinople itself, by inciting a Christian rebellion against the Ottomans. The Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774) gave Russia the right to make "representations" to the Sultan in defense of his Orthodox subjects, and the Russians began to interfere regularly in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire. This, combined with the new ideas let loose by the French Revolution of 1789, began to reconnect the Greeks with the outside world and led to the development of an active nationalist movement, one of the most progressive of the time. Greece was peripherally involved in the Napoleonic Wars, but one episode had important consequences. When the French under Napoleon Bonaparte seized Venice in 1797, they also acquired the Ionian Islands, thus ending the four hundredth year of Venetian rule over the Ionian Islands. The islands were elevated to the status of a French dependency called the Septinsular Republic, which possessed local autonomy. This was the first time Greeks had governed themselves since the fall of Trebizond in 1461. Among those who held office in the islands was John Capodistria, destined to become independent Greece's first head of state. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Greece had re-emerged from its centuries of isolation. British and French writers and artists began to visit the country, and wealthy Europeans began to collect Greek antiquities.
Filiki Eteria or Society of Friends, was a Greek secret organization founded in 1814 in Odessa, whose purpose was to overthrow the Ottoman rule of Greece and establish an independent Greek state. Society members were mainly young Phanariot Greeks from Constantinople and the Russian Empire, local political and military leaders from the Greek mainland and islands, as well as several Orthodox Christian leaders from other nations that were under Hellenic influence in the Balkans, such as Karađorđe from Serbia, Tudor Vladimirescu from Romania. One of its leaders was the prominent Phanariote Prince Alexander Ypsilantis. The Society initiated the Greek War of Independence in the spring of 1821. In the context of ardent desire for independence from Turkish occupation, and with the explicit influence of similar secret societies elsewhere in Europe, three Greeks came together in 1814 in Odessa to decide the constitution for a secret organization. Its purpose was to unite all Greeks in an armed organization to overthrow Turkish rule. The three founders were Nikolaos Skoufas from the Arta province of Epirus, Emmanuil Xanthos from Patmos island and Athanasios Tsakalov from Ioannina, Eprius. Soon after they initiated a fourth member, Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos from Andritsaina in Peloponnese.
In 1818, the seat of Filiki Eteria had migrated from Odessa to Constantinople, and Skoufas' death had been a serious loss. The remaining founders attempted to find a major personality to take over the reins, one who would add prestige and fresh impetus to the society. In early 1818, they had a meeting with Ioannis Kapodistrias, who not only refused, but later wrote that he considered Filiki Eteria guilty for the havoc that was foreboded in Greece. Alexandros Ypsilantis was contacted and asked to assume leadership of Filiki Eteria, which he did in April 1820. He began active preparations for a revolt and with the setting up of a military unit for the purpose that he named the Sacred Band. Various proposals were made for the location regarding the break out of the revolution. One of them was the to be started in Constantinople, the heart of the empire, that was the long-term target of the revolutionaries. Finally the decision that was taken was to start from the Peloponnese (Morea), and the Danubian Principalities at the same time. The society especially wanted also to take advantage of the involvement of significant Ottoman forces, including the pasha of the Moreas, against the rebellion of the albanian Ali Pasha of Ioannina.
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